If you’re like most serious golfers, you might have asked… “Is it worth it to join a country club?”
Here’s the thing, joining a country club membership is not for everyone. But for some golfers, it is one of the best investments you can make.
Not only do you get unlimited golf, you get to meet new people, play in competitive tournaments, and enjoy all the facilities. Some courses are a small cost, while others might rival your mortgage or rent.
Needless to say, not all courses are created equal.
In this post, I’ll help you navigate the private golf club world and see if it’s the right choice for you.
What to Consider When Joining a Country Club
Before locking yourself into a long-term contract and becoming a member, make sure to consider all of these factors.
Fully Private vs. Semi-Private Country Club Membership
The first thing you should consider is understanding the dynamics of the club; is it fully private? Or, semi-private and non-members can play after a certain time or on certain days (or parts of the year)?
This is a huge factor as semi-private courses likely get a lot more golfers than private clubs. While that might mean more revenue, it also means more wear and tear of the golf club as well.
Here are some other questions to ask the GM or director when you visit:
- What are the guest rates? Do they change per season?
- How many tournaments per year are offered? What are the additional costs?
- Do you have any partnerships with other clubs? What are the reciprocal rates?
- How easy is it to get tee times? Do you need to call every time or can you make them online?
- How many members total? What’s the breakdown of full-time membership vs. seasonal members?
The second thing to consider is the golf course itself. Or, in some cases, golf courses, as there might be multiple 18 holes or a smaller 9 hole as well. This is another huge factor as you want to love the course that you join.
Here are some questions to ask yourself when evaluating the golf course:
- When is the first tee time of the day?
- Does it have good drainage/irrigation?
- How is the course condition? Is it good year round?
- When are they closed (certain times of the day, parts of the year, etc.)?
- Do you like playing the course? Does it set up well? Do you see yourself getting bored after a few months?
- How are the practice facilities? Are the range balls worn down like they haven’t been replaced in years? Do you hit off of turf or mats? Is there a good short game area?
Arguably the biggest point of contention for a lot of golfers (or their spouses) is the golf membership prices. While most people think it’s more expensive to join, if you’re playing golf a lot, you might actually save money.
Think about it, let’s say you play on average three times per week at roughly $60/round, that’s $180/week or $720/month. If your membership is between $500 to $600/month, you will actually save money. Plus, you could meet some new golfing buddies or lifelong friends.
So what are the average prices?
According to The Golf Membership Spot, “A one-time fee can range anywhere between $1,000 upwards to $25,000.” Plus, all the other recurring costs. Here’s what you need to think about …
Unless they’re running some sort of crazy special, many clubs will have some sort of initiation fee. This could be a few thousand dollars or $100,000 plus for some ultra-exclusive clubs.
Don’t worry, you aren’t just giving them all the money and never seeing it again though. When and if you leave, you can usually get a percentage of it back if you’re an equity member.
But make sure to always clarify the details before cutting the check! The details (like getting your Initiation fees back) will vary by club.
Monthly Dues and Other Costs
Next up, what are monthly dues?
Some clubs are a few hundred dollars while some are $1,000 plus per month! Make sure you do the math based on how much you currently play and how much you will need to play to make it worth it.
Also, make sure to consider if the course is closed parts of the year for seasonality or maintenance. Plus, double check cart fees vs. having your own cart vs. walking.
Food and Beverage Minimum
Finally, don’t forget to ask about any F&B minimums. Many clubs usually require a certain amount spent on food/beverage per month or per year.
If you don’t spend that much, they will charge you anyways so make sure to clarify before applying. Also, it doesn’t hurt to grab a bite at the restaurant to make sure it’s a good menu too.
Type of Country Club Memberships
Once you understand the course and different costs associated, make sure to research the types of memberships offered.
Here is a breakdown of each type of country club membership:
The first type is an equity member. This is usually the most expensive option and allows you to join the board of directors (if voted), vote on important course issues, and have the most status at the club..
The second type member is a non-equity member.
This means you don’t get to vote on board matters such as clubhouse renovations, course projects, staff changes, etc. Almost always you will pay a smaller upfront fee and maybe smaller dues as well. Depending on the club, this is very similar to a junior executive membership.
The third option is a seasonal member.
If you’re a snowbird or only play golf parts of the year, this could be a great option too. Usually, you’ll have slightly higher initiation fees and monthly dues to make up for the months you aren’t at the club. Also, you will likely not get to vote on any matter as seasonal members are rarely equity members.
Another big factor is how much it costs for additional family members to join. In some instances, if you live with a girlfriend or are married, they might be included or have to pay a small monthly fee. Plus, you will want to see what is the rule with kids joining, eligibility age, and any other costs as well.
A junior member is usually someone who is under 40 or 45 years of age. Not all clubs will offer this but it’s a great way to save some money if you’re a young adult.
You can usually pay a smaller initiation fee and lower monthly dues as well. Usually, you can only keep this rate for a certain number of years or until you reach a certain age. Make sure to double-check the policies before joining.
Another form of membership is known as “social.”
With this type of membership, you usually don’t have access to unlimited golf but only the facilities. For example, you can eat at the restaurant, join any parties, play tennis, use the gym, etc. These are usually the cheapest and great for people who want to be a part of a club without the golf side of things.
Finally, some clubs also offer trial memberships to help attract new members. This is a great way to test out the golf club for a one-time fee.
A trial membership allows you to play the course several times, meet the members, visit the practice facility, eat at the restaurant and get a feel for things. Pretty quickly, you’ll be able to see if it’s right for you and your family (or not) by using the criteria above.
How To Join a Private Golf Club
If you’ve read this far and it seems like a worthwhile investment, here’s what to do next. Follow this step-by-step process to make sure you don’t pull the trigger too quick and find the perfect option for you.
Step 1: Research All Golf Clubs in Your Area
One of the worst things golfers can do is join the first club they visit. Think about it, you wouldn’t buy a car at the first lot you visit, would you? Then why would you do that with golf?
Instead, do a deep dive on all the golf clubs in your area. Research online, ask friends, golfing buddies, and more. Start to compile a list, think about its location to home/work, and if you know any members at the club already.
Step 2: Play a Round
Almost all clubs will usually offer a “Member for a Day” where you can trial the facilities. They typically wine and dine you, pair you up with some members or allow you to bring a guest or two to play 18 holes.
Also, some clubs might even offer a trial membership where you pay a certain amount per week or per month to give it a test run. If this is available, I highly recommend it as you’ll pretty quickly realize if it’s the right fit for you or not.
Step 3: Calculate the Costs
Once you’ve tried out some courses or played a few rounds, now is time to compare the costs. I would write down everything in a Google sheet or Excel spreadsheet to compare all the costs mentioned above.
In this step, you will want to consider the type of membership you want and if any family members are joining.
Step 4: Apply to Join the Country Club
If you’ve done your research and found one you love (not like, but love), pull the trigger. Usually, you have to fill out an application with more information about yourself, job, income, etc. Depending on the course, they might also ask for letters of recommendations from others or even from fellow golfers already at the club.
FAQs About Country Clubs
Do you have more questions about private country clubs? If so, we got answers!
What are the benefits of joining a country club?
It’s a great question and will differ for each club as no two golf courses are the same. In general, here are some of the biggest benefits of joining a country club.
Arguably the most important reason and biggest benefit of joining is unlimited golf!
With most memberships, you can play as often as you want. Plus, a lot of private clubs are more intimate which means fewer members and very easy to get tee times.
Easy to Book Tee Times
Hopefully, your new club is easy to book tee times! Some allow you to do it all online and others are so casual you can just walk out and tee it up on the first hole.
Another huge benefit is access to the facilities. This might include a pool, tennis courts, pickle ball, spas, and more. Not to mention, unlimited driving range balls and a well kept short game area to hone your skills.
Finally, we can’t forget the fun tournaments that come along with being a member at a club. From the club championship, holiday events, member-guests and more. These are usually some of the best parts of becoming a member at a private club.
What do I need to know before joining a country club?
Before investing into a private club, make sure you ask yourself the questions above to have all the information beforehand. The last thing you want to do is join a club and end up hating it or are stuck in a long-term contract.
Make sure to take everything slow and don’t feel like you have to make a decision instantly. Remember, if it doesn’t feel right or you don’t like the vibe of the club or members, run the other way. You want to join a place that makes you feel welcome and give off a fun, inviting atmosphere.
What is the most expensive country club to join?
According to Golf Industry Central, the most expensive club is Liberty National in New Jersey. The club has unreal amenities including yacht services, heliport, and a world-class spa. It did also cost a whopping $160 million dollars to create so the membership isn’t cheap.
Other expensive courses include:
- Fancourt in South Africa
- The Bears Club in Florida
- Trump National in Los Angeles
- Wentworth Golf Club in England
What is the most exclusive country club in America?
When it comes to most exclusive clubs, it’s hard not to say Augusta National. The home of the Masters is about as difficult to get into as the White House. It’s that exclusive and being super wealthy isn’t enough.
The funny thing about Augusta is that even if you are a member, you can’t play very often. Their number one focus is the Masters tournament above all else. We all can keep dreaming of finding a way to play there!
Final Thoughts on Country Club Life
So, are country clubs worth it?
My answer; maybe. It’s a great idea for some players and an awful idea for others.
Before becoming a member, make sure you do a ton of research before committing. Since you’ll likely be out there often, you want to make sure you enjoy all aspects. From the members, the course, the facilities, tournaments, and at a cost that won’t break the bank.